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Day 143: Romancing Darkness

Day 143: Romancing Darkness


# of literary mags submitted to: 1

# of agents queried: 2

other: here is something I wrote for Burlesque Press!

Yesterday, around six-thirty, Nikki asked if I wanted to take a nighttime walk in Nickerson State Park.

“It’s dark out,” I said.

“It’ll be fun!” She grinned, and I said okay.

We got into the car. Already, it was pitch-black outside, and the park was deserted. We parked in an empty lot, and Nikki switched on her one, small flashlight.

“This is scary,” I said as we walked towards the trail. My eyes struggled to adjust, picking out the shapes of lanky trees looming all around us.

“You’re the one who likes the darkness,” Nikki said.

“No, I like the concept of darkness,” I corrected. “I like macabre stories and gothic costumes. But I’m afraid of the actual dark.”

“Well, come on,” Nikki said, beginning to walk along the trail. “We’ll be fine.”

“Oh, I know we will,” I said. “But I’m going to be scared anyway.”

We walked for a moment in silence. The woods on either side of us were strangely silent, too. I thought about the times I’d walked this trail in the daylight. Normally there were birds calling from the treetops and squirrels rustling through the underbrush.

“I don’t know why I’m afraid of the dark,” I said after a moment. “I’m not afraid of anything in particular happening in the dark. It’s more of a general fear.”

I looked upwards. The sky was a dusty gray, contrasting against the black shapes of trees stretching their limbs.

I started telling Nikki about how, my Freshman year of college, I used to go out running at midnight. “I didn’t want anybody to see me running because I thought I looked weird,” I explained. “So I would literally wait until midnight and then go running down Richmond Road. And Williamsburg is a small town. It’s not like there were a lot of cars out or places open. Everything is dark and deserted after ten o’clock.”

“But Williamsburg’s pretty safe, isn’t it?” Nikki asked.

I glanced to my right, at the deep pocket of dark, silent trees. “Well, I don’t know. There were a lot of rapes that year. I remember my friends getting really mad at me for going running by myself at night because they thought I was going to get raped.”

Suddenly Nikki stopped in her tracks and the beam from her flashlight faltered. “Eva, I can’t walk anymore.” Her voice sounded strange and cold.

Instinctively my heart clenched in my chest, and I threw my arms around her, frightened. “What is it?” I asked. Had she seen something ahead on the trail? Had she heard something in the woods?

“I don’t know,” she said. “You said rape, and now I can’t get that out of my head. I think we have to go back to the car now.” She turned around and begin to walk quickly towards the parking lot.

My heart began to pound, and I followed her. Before, my fear of the dark had been a hazy blanket, falling lightly over everything, but I could still see through it. Now, however, it had been packed into a solid and specific form that hovered just beyond the corners of my eyes. Even though I knew the actual chance of someone attacking us in this empty park was practically zero, I was now ridiculously frightened by the possibility.

“I’m sorry,” I said, feeling stupid and inconsiderate. “I shouldn’t have been talking about that. I ruined our nighttime walk.”

“No, no,” Nikki said. “You didn’t. I thought I’d be okay with walking in the dark like this, but the farther we got away from the car, the more nervous I got.”

“Well, if there is a rapist out there in the woods, waiting for girls to walk by, he must be really bored,” I said, trying, as I often do, to diffuse the situation with a poorly-made joke.

Nikki attempted to laugh.

We got back to the car, and I felt the tension in my shoulders loosen. We drove to downtown Brewster and took a walk on the sidewalk, with car headlights illuminating our way and multi-colored Christmas lights twinkling at every house we passed.

Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA

Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA

When Paul came to visit last week, we spent some time exploring Mount Auburn’s Cemetery in Cambridge. We wandered past crumbling mausoleums and old, broken headstones. In the biting cold of late afternoon we examined elaborate tombs and sad stone angels and the markers of babies’ graves. I wasn’t afraid. I find cemeteries, especially old ones like St. Auburn’s, to be beautiful and peaceful and gothically romantic. This is the type of darkness I enjoy – the solemn and mysterious beauty of death.

As we sat on a stone bench in front of a small, leaf-clogged pond, Paul glanced at his phone. The cemetery was closing in twenty minutes, and the light was already beginning to fade from the sky. We began to make our way along the narrow path back to the entrance. It was the blue of dusk now, and my eyes strained to keep the world from growing blurry.

“This time of day is so strange,” I said, shoving my frozen hands deeper into my pockets. “The way the color drains from the world.”
I pointed at a slope covered in English ivy. “I know that’s green because I saw it as green earlier. But now that the light is fading, the color is going, too. Now it’s just a shade of gray. Everything is losing its definition. It’s getting harder to see what everything is. It’s like a dream.” My voice was becoming soft and dreamlike, too. “In my dreams I’m always straining to see things clearly, but I can never quite get them in focus.”

“That happens to me in real life sometimes,” Paul said.

“Maybe we are always living in the dusk, metaphorically,” I said. “We’re never really seeing things as they truly are.”

It was really getting dark now, and the world had lost its color almost completely. I saw a small, black form – a cat maybe – scamper across the path and disappear behind a tombstone. I was frightened, but I didn’t say so. I started walking faster, suddenly worried about getting locked into the cemetery over night. I loved this place dearly during the daylight hours, but now, in the darkness, it had become something else entirely.

Tree Line (summer) by Christopher Caroll (2011)

Today my friend Chris shared a link to an artistic essay he’d written on darkness, called “Romance in Black,” The essay appears in Drain Magazine and is accompanied by his artwork. Chris writes that these works represent his infatuation with “the colors of darkness.” He wanted to create an image that “induces the same psychological response that I perceive whilst looking at darkness.”

And I think he succeeded. The pieces illustrate to me, not how the Nickerson woods actually looked last night, nor how St. Auburn’s actually looked last Friday, but still they give an accurate representation of how I felt in both instances. He has perfectly depicted the way the color drains from the world as the light fades from the sky, leaving behind morose shades of black and gray and sometimes a sickly bluish-greenish-brown. He has shown the way that simple objects grow hazy and disconcerting in the darkness, as if there is something ominous hidden in their shadows.

When really, the only place where ominous things are want to hide, is in the dark corners of our own minds.


About evalangston

Eva Langston is a writer, among other things.

One response »

  1. “Day 143: Romancing Darkness In the Garden of Eva”
    was indeed a great post, can not help but wait
    to examine far more of your articles. Time to squander some
    time on the internet hehe. Thanks for your effort ,Margret


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